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These days, car dealerships, try to express their individuality from their competitors through value propositions. Almost every dealership has some sort of template or message as to “Why Buy from Us” integrated into their communications with their customers. Some find that they fall short in discovering or realizing what is the truth – customers are not as in love with them as they may think. Customers have their own perception as to what will make a lifelong marriage. Will the dealership realize that its promise hasn’t lived up to consumer expectations and strive to correct it?
Quite often there’s a large gap between a company’s brand promise and the reality as perceived by their customers. A recent article on ZDNet cites several studies that show the disparity between what a company claims to deliver or strives to achieve, and the perception of the same by the consumer. One of the studies cited in the article stated, “…fully 80 percent believe their firm offers a superior proposition. However, only 8 percent of customers held that same view.” This gap is so wide that it leaves little question that many companies are falling short of providing what the customer expects of them – and this leaves the door wide open for the customer to file for a loyalty divorce.
So how can your dealership avoid going to divorce court with your customer and turn the relationship into a wedded bliss – one that could lead into years of happiness and maybe even some offspring (referrals, repeat business)? Like a conversation with your spouse, it all starts with communication.
With your customers taking to the web and social media at ever increasing rates, finding out what they are saying about you is step number one. Engaging with the customer is just a half-step behind. Imagine the customer who brought their vehicle into your service department for the third time for the same repair. Bothered that she had to return time and again for the same issue, she told her friends in the office about her less than satisfactory experiences. She then spread the word on her Facebook wall and posted a message on your dealership’s Facebook page. She then left a two-star review on Google. Six months earlier, when she purchased her car, she said “I do” to your dealership and trusted that you’d be faithful to your promise: great customer service plus timely and accurate repairs.
You brand yourself as the dealer in town that everyone trusts to get the job done right. Yet this wasn’t the case with this customer and countless others that perhaps chose not to voice their frustrations. Some have decided to take their business elsewhere, even if that means a longer drive to a dealership in another area. Others are just waiting out the marriage, hoping that someday it will magically improve.
What can you do for this customer? Start with a conversation through the mediums that she has publicly taken to. After you’ve listened to, empathized with and addressed the concern, you can take back what you’ve learned from her (and others like her) and begin to implement strategies to improve any weakness you may have discovered in the relationship. Perhaps you need to educate or train your staff; maybe staff changes need to be made; or perhaps it’s a simply a matter of better communication between the service team and the customer.
While no individual or company will be perfect, if you have not bridged the gap between the customer’s expectations and the reality of your service, you may find the customer walking away after her six-month marriage, instead of riding out some of the rough patches until its time for an anniversary celebration.
It might be time to take a closer look at your dealership’s mission statement. Are you fulfilling your promises and striving to improve. Or have you become complacent? Are you listening to your customers and responding appropriately when concerns arise? Have you empowered your team to go above and beyond the customer’s expectations so that the customer will feel “warm and fuzzy” when they visit your dealership?
It’s time to take a look in the mirror and ask if you would say, “I do” if you were the customer. Or if it’s time to call off the wedding.